Former Ellinwood runner, coach winning at Central Heights
By Mike Courson
The seed doesn’t fall far from the tree. Success in Ellinwood has led to success at Central Heights for former EHS runner and coach Troy Prosser, who was recently named Class 3A Cross Country Coach of the Year. Prosser recently led the Viking boys to a second-place finish at this year’s state cross country championships in Lawrence.
“An award like this is only possible because I have a dedicated group of kids who work extremely hard and who I enjoy working with,” Prosser said.
Central Heights is located in Richmond, approximately 30 miles south of Lawrence. Three years ago, Prosser took over the once powerful cross country team that flourished several decades ago, winning Class 3A boys’ titles in 1988 and 1990 and finishing second in 1991. The Viking squad had since diminished.
“There were only four or five kids the year before I took over,” Prosser said. “It had dropped off quite a bit from the late 1980s and early 1990s.”
Prosser took with him considerable knowledge of the sport. As a high school student, he ran under Larry Drees and Jeff Tanner. In college, he ran under Kirk Wren at Ottawa University. Upon returning to Ellinwood, he coached under Lyles Lashley. He took something from each of those coaches and put it into his own program.
“I implemented a lot of that and got some interest,” he said. “The kids started having a lot more success the first year than they had in quite a while. It started growing quickly after that.
“It’s being extremely organized, making sure everything is planned out and tracked and detailed; everything from taking down times during workouts, to making sure they’re drinking plenty of water and have facilities for ice baths to take care of injuries. It’s staying on top of everything.
“It’s also about running as a team but still making sure every single kid gets individual attention, too.”
Just over a dozen kids ran for Prosser three years ago. Prosser has worked with middle school athletes, and the number nearly doubled to more than two dozen athletes the last two years.
Those numbers paid off this fall as the Vikings finished second in Class 3A, finishing just two points behind a Halstead team that finished second in 2016.
Next year is looking even better for Prosser as he returns all but one scorer from his runner-up team. His top-three runners each cracked the top-33 at state this year.
“Everybody has their five-year plan,” Prosser said. “I intended it to take four or five years just to get a full squad into high school, and kind of build it up from the middle school up. It’s still a work in progress, but it grew a lot faster in the second year than I anticipated and that turned over pretty well into this year.”